by Kelly Shepherd
2017 was an interesting year for comedy. In a genre where social issues are satirized, 2017 brought forth a new landscape of political motivation, moving stand up comedy out of disengagement and into a co-pilot seat for news media.
If comedy ever had a moment to tip its hat to an individual who brought it back from irelevancy, it would be the Nice Lady Tour brought to you by comedian, writer, and feminist, Michelle Wolf. I am a fangirl, so allow me to get something off my chest: I believe, in my core and heart, that Michelle Wolf is the greatest female comedian of all time.
Let me answer the first question that popped in your mind — why?
First of all, female comedians have a rough go of things. In general, female comedians attempt to tackle a few major issues in their comedy: sex, menstruation, relationships, and maybe, if they are lucky, politics or social issues. In my experience, watching female comedians has always left me a little irritated.
And this is not because they aren’t funny, talented or smart. I have a problem with female comedians in that many (I will not say all of them) are telling the same jokes in rather similar ways. Sex is awkward, periods are gross, relationships suck and so does the world. It has become almost formulaic. What makes Wolf different is that she tells these conventional jokes in ways that are not only refreshing and nuanced, but hilarious.
Instead of mentioning periods as a gross and unfair problem women have, she compares periods to a man having his arm ripped off before work. Instead of reminiscing about past poor relationship choices, she reads the text messages of the one who got away, or rather was pushed away by a series of random, quirky, and kind of scary texts.
Michelle Wolf is turning female comics over in their graves, only so they can muffle their laughing fits with the damp soil beneath them.
Echoing in Politics
Aside from the general scheme of comedy (talking about your life problems/experiences through metaphors for bigger issues that impact us), Michelle Wolf does an excellent job of conveying the political upheaval our country is in while simultaneously avoiding a rant about her disconnects with politics — which many fans of comedy know is a horrible way to spend an hour onstage.
Wolf makes her jabs at the political spectrum, jokingly stating that women still have the opportunity of being the first to assassinate a president. Perhaps Wolf’s affinity for politics began as a correspondent on The Daily Show, where cracks at the current administration thrive. She even discusses the politics of bathrooms and opens men’s eyes (hopefully) to the truth about what happens in a woman’s restroom — which is apparently lady farts.
Amongst her politically driven jokes were cracks at the presidency, the administration, recent laws passed, as well as the pay gap which she hilariously illustrates using a simple conversation at a bar: “I want equal pay and a chardonnay. Well, then just the chardonnay.” Wolf doesn’t stop at politics however, she continues to take stances of social issues as well through her lens of feminist comedy.
Holy Social Moly
If assassination, lady farts and pay gaps weren’t enough to make any audience member realize that this comedian is for real, then certainly the discussion of climate change did. Though climate change is considered a highly political issue, Wolf discusses climate change using awesome gender stereotypes derived from inadequate social representation — mother nature is a passive aggressive woman who only asked you to take out the recycling.
Birth control became another topic that was shown immense support by the audience as she made her case for why birth control is necessary. There is the obvious standby of overpopulation, responsible parenting, yada yada. But her joke really takes this discussion to the next level when she compares birth control to a duel — a duel where only one player is given ammunition, approximately 20 billion bullets, to be exact.
None of these jokes, however, take the cake for me as much as my favorite type of female joke — period jokes. As a woman who gets periods, I enjoy an enlightened take on the subject, and frankly amputation felt like the perfect analogy. While Ron’s arm is “viciously torn from his body,” and blood is spewing everywhere, he appears perfectly normal to inquisitive peers, saying idioms like, “I’m fine” and, “I’m good, how are you?”
The male audience members may have felt a little out-of-place at the beginning of the set when Wolf came right out and admitted to her feminism. Though it isn’t something that should be admitted, it’s like admitting you have allergies — it impacts your daily choices, but does little to enlighten your actual character. Any man who doesn’t also identify as a feminist might have shivered in their seats a little.
But, in my opinion, the second half of her hour-long special held more weight for her male counterparts than anything else she mentioned before. She closed her show with a joke discussing the available achievements for men, which, admittedly, are few. Men have already been on the moon first and been ALL the presidents. Wolf even states that men who want to win an olympic medal and then become a woman, would still be the second.
This leaves little for men to actually achieve, while women have nowhere but up to travel. We have not been the first for nearly a quarter of the things men have taken responsibility for, and all we have left to do in life is improve and become further empowered. All women can do from here is rise.
Wolf has changed comedy, much like late-night television, to be much more grown up, to be more informed, and to have stronger opinions that actually effect change in the community. Wolf checked many things off of her naughty list: transgender people and bathrooms, people with crappy personalities, underqualified presidents and even weird text messages. I just look forward to her next special where maybe she will disentangle North Korea, rompers and the rise of Bitcoin.